"It's Burlington. Everyone dresses like they're going to a concert."
We were parked outside Northern Lights on Main Street, pondering whether or not it was time to make our way down the grubby alley towards the venue. My first time at the Signal Kitchen left me with very high hopes for tonight's festivities. BADBADNOTGOOD's 2014 performance, had me in a state of utter awe and excitement, with a cut on my left shin from being pushed onto to the dimly lit stage multiple times. That was right around the time their label debut III leaked onto the internet, and upon entrance it became no secret that the hundreds of people crammed into the basement that night had heard them, too.
Tonight, was Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Touring for Multi-Love (2015), a groovy indie rock record that had made its way onto shelves of many underground music lovers this past year, this was UMO's first appearance in Vermont.
Despite Jake's earlier comment, Noah decided to take a look to see if anyone had parked themselves in front of the SK door. Disappearing into the alley for a few moments, he rushed back with a eager grin.
"The door's open, and you can hear them sound checking!"
Within a few moments, we were crowded around the entrance, listening in on what seemed like a jam between keyboard player Quincy McCrary and an unknown drummer. Unfortunately, not long after, a couple tried to make their way through, and our listening session came to abrupt end as the door was shut.
In a pathetic attempt to retrieve our listening pleasure, we turned to snapchat, sending videos to the group's lead guitarist and singer, Ruban Nielson. In the middle of Noah's monologue of, "Rubarb! Baby! We need you to come open this door..", a less than enthusiastic woman, who presumedly worked at SK, tried to get in. Discovering the door was locked she pulled out her phone without making eye contact with the four of us. In a soft, but clearly sarcastic tone, she said, "I take it you guys are here for the show tonight".
"What gave it away," Jake responded, as we erupted with laughter. Still looking down at her phone, she stayed stone faced. Something tells me she wasn't amused.
About an hour later we found ourselves the first ones downstairs. To anyone who hasn't experienced the front row at a small concert venue, I can assure you its always worth the wait. Perhaps the biggest turn off for most people is sitting through the opening act. Understandably so, over the past few years I've sat through some god awful openers. Even some of the best and energetic concert experiences I've had start with a "What the HELL was that?"
Tonight's opener however reinforces why I always come early.
"Does Burlington like disco?" says Dani Bachmann, drummer of Klaus Johann Grobe. Based out of Zürich, Switzerland, the three piece band delivered a batch of danceable dreamy pop tunes, that left me head bobbin' the entire set. I turned to my friends after with a surprised grin, "They were actually pretty fun".
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Signal Kitchen comes from the intimate nature between the act and the crowd. Unlike most venues, there isn't a back door to the stage, thus the only way the band can come on is by traveling through their crowd. The stage itself is only a few feet of the ground, with no guard rail or protection. The audience and the band share a level of equality that left me feeling like I could just talk to UMO as if they were good friends.
Despite never answering his phone, Noah and Jake did get a chance to ask Ruban about his custom made guitar pedal board. "What's the K stand for?" one of them yelled. In a reserved but clearly joyful tone he looked at us and said, "Kill switch" into the mic, right before a smashing performance of "Stage or Screen".
After a stellar set, I picked up a copy of "Multi-Love" on vinyl as we were leaving. I even grabbed the new Klaus Johann Grobe record, "Spagat der Liebe", for some strange after midnight listens at school. Walking out the door we came in we ran into the drummer for UMO, and complimented her drumming performance, and of course asked to snap a few pictures.
"Have a good night!" Jake said as we left her, "Oh and tell Ruban to open his snapchats".